Monday, February 27, 2012

Cigar & Charcuterie - McMenamins Edgefield and Olympic Provisions

A rainy, manly Saturday in Portland...

Rain. For the third weekend in a row. Now, I don't mind a little rain on a hike. In fact, I often prefer it. It makes for fewer crowds and a more natural and mysterious feel to nature. But when you're towing around expensive camera equipment (expensive to me, at least...), you don't typically want to risk getting caught in a downpour.

I woke up this morning to a juxtaposition of snow, sleet, and rain. I knew that chances were slim of a full-blown hike, but cabin fever has become intense and I needed to get out. So, I decided I'd check two items off my Portland Area Bucket List: a cigar at the Little Red Shed at Edgefield, and the charcuterie at Olympic Provisions. I grabbed my camera and the novel that I'm currently obsessed with, grabbed the largest cigar out of my humidor (a Gurkha Grand Age: 7.5 inches long with a 54 ring gauge), and hit the road.

Cigar @ Little Red Shed, McMenamins Edgefield

How do I describe what the McMenamin Bros. have done for Portland? For one, they have kept it in tact. For another, they have made it more fun. For yet another, they have provided for Portlanders and a growing number of tourists truly authentic pubs, each with their own history and character. Who are the McMenamin Bros.? They are two guys who have bought up old historical buildings in Portland, renovated them, decorated them to look like surrealist English public houses, and turned them into pubs, restaurants, brew-n-view theaters, hotels, music venues, or in some circumstances (including Edgefield), all of the above. Their establishments consist of an old school, poor farm, Universal Studios movie theater, Church of Sweden, general store, Polish Catholic Church, ballroom, brothel, pioneer homestead, a Masonic retirement home, and a funeral home, to name just a few. Frankly, I am thankful for the McMenamins for what they have done around Portland, not only preserving history, but planting gorgeous and unique pubs all over the city.

Edgefield is the largest and most touristy McMenamin properties. Built around 1911, it was a "poor farm" that was run by Multnomah county to offer jobs to the poor, elderly, and mentally disabled. Then, in 1950, the building became a hospital for tubercular patients. In 1964 it housed emotionally disturbed children. Killer cool, if not macabre, history! In the 1980's there was a lot of county talk of the building being torn down and the land sold to developers. But in 1990, then the manor became listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the McMenamins bought the property and started to transform it into what it is today.

And what is Edgefield today? I like to think of it as a resort for your stereotypical Northwesterner. Edgefield is not a bar or a restaurant, it is a "grounds" containing several of both, a hotel, and many more. The 74 acre Edgefield grounds, located on the very farthest eastern fringe of Portland before getting into the Columbia River Gorge (another plus for Edgefield, its proximity to the Gorge!), contains over 100 guest rooms, 2 3-par golf courses, a distillery, a brewery, a winery, a spa, a rentable wedding reception venue, a brew-and-view movie theater, a soaking pool, and multiple gardens, restaurants and bars (some of which I have dubbed "nook-and-cranny" bars, since they have seating for about 10-15 people only and are located in tiny sheds/shacks, like the cigar bar viewed below).

Here is a photo of the iconic water tower in the center of the grounds.

Water Tower - McMenamin's Edgefield (m)

Ah, yes. The "Little Red Shed", the only bar at Edgefield that allows cigar smoking. It is, indeed, a shed. It's weathered, ramshackle, and barn-like, but that is exactly how it should be. A bonfire roars in a fire-pit just outside with several picnic tables surrounding. The inside features a very small bar with taps, whiskey bottles, port, and that's about it, a fireplace, and seating for roughly 15 people maximum. It is, in every sense of the word, cozy. I absolutely love this little shed. I could sit here all day, and indeed I nearly did. This may perhaps be the perfect place to smoke a cigar (where it's still permitted) in the country. With so few places left out there that allow cigars to be smoked indoors, I cannot see how anyone could have the McMenamins beat for having a more cozy and quintessential "cave" in which to smoke a cigar (and that comment includes not just Little Red Shed but other McMenamins cigar bars like the brilliantly named Detention in Kennedy School, Greater Trumps, and Little White Shed out in Hillsboro).

My Gurkha Grand Age, at 7.5 inches long, burned slowly and evenly for 2 hours. Accompanying it was a pint of McMenamins' own Hammerhead Pale Ale and the novel Number9Dream by my favorite living author, David Mitchell.

Little Red Shed Cigar Bar - McMenamins Edgefield

Gurkha Grand Age & McMenamins Hammerhead Pale Ale

Little Red Shed - McMenamins Edgefield
Gurkha Grand Age & McMenamins Hammerhead Pale Ale
Two hours later... time to call it quits.

Very unexpectedly, the sun reared its beautiful face for an hour or so, lending me a chance to wander around the Edgefield grounds for a little while before an early dinner in SE Portland at Olympic Provisions. Those who love art will love the feel of the McMenamin's establishments. The original art throughout their buildings is almost always eccentric and surrealist, and often macabre or eerie. I for one am in love with the way they decorate their establishments. Very classy yet "out there," always very homey yet often almost fairy-tale like, very "traditional English Pub" yet something distinctively different at the same time.

(more on my views on McMenamins at the bottom of the entry, but for now, here are some shots of Edgefield)

McMenamins Edgefield - Troutdale, Oregon
Edgefield Porch
One of the nook-and-cranny bars at Edgefield
An Edgefield "archway" 

Inside Edgefield

Typical Surrealist Art you find within a McMenamin's establishment
In a perfect world I would've spent a few more hours at Edgefield; and in the future, I will post many more photos of the grounds, the various buildings on the grounds, some of their food and more of their drink, the inside of a guest room hopefully, etc. But here's the deal. I've been chomping at the bit to try Olympic Provisions ever since I bought one of their deli meats at New Seasons market. I had decided, before even arriving at McMenamins, that I was finally going to have Olympic Provisions for an early happy hour dinner. That being said, the hungrier I grew at Edgefield, the more and more eager I was to get to Olympic Provisions before Happy Hour ended. So, goodbye for now, Edgefield, but I'll see you again very soon.

Charcuterie @ Olympic Provisions, SE Portland

If you love meat, then you need to know about this place. Olympic Provisions is Oregon's first USDA-approved salumeria, or, cured meat shop. They sell their products wholesale but also operate two restaurants in Portland, one on each side of the river. To quote their website, "both Olympic Provisions operate as European-style restaurants, bustling neighborhood delis, and onsite meat-curing facilities." So true. But what they humbly neglect to tell you on their website is how savory, addicting, and god-dang unreal their meats are. Holy hell. I mean these guys know what they are doing, to say the least.

For those of you that are unfamiliar with the word charcuterie, click here for a definition, provided by Wikipedia. Basically, it is the art of doing outrageously delicious things with meat.

Vegetarians, I hate to say it, but when it comes to Olympic Provisions I do feel a little sorry for you. Words can hardly describe what you are missing out on here. But at least O.P. is honest about what they do. Right as you walk into their SE restaurant you see a giant illuminated MEAT sign on the wall (see below). It is no secret what they specialize in here. But, vegetarians, don't let that stop you from coming here. Coincidentally, O.P. are also master picklers and have a great selection of wine.

I am shocked by how reasonable their happy hour prices are too. Needless to say, I love this place. It is unique, outstandingly high quality, and quintessentially Portland (not just in the food and warehouse-y atmosphere, but for the heavily tattooed staff). This is the kind of place I will bring visitors to because, to me, it stands as one of the key representations of Portland's emergence as a hotbed of artisan talent in the national culinary scene.

Inside Olympic Provisions
Happy Hour @ Olympic Provisions

The happy hour menu is just right. Divided into two sections, one labeled EAT and the other DRINK, my eye naturally gravitated first to the DRINK side. Here I found the "Olympic Old-Fashioned." Now, I love me an old-fashioned, but this was above and beyond the Old-Fashions of my past. Under the word "Olympic Old Fashioned" it read "bourbon, baking spices, brown sugar, two bitters." For the love of black jeans, I'll take one!

House Bourbon Old Fashioned, $5 - Olympic Provisions Happy Hour

Next, the EAT side of the menu; and how on earth could I neglect the "Chef's Choice of 3 Charcuterie Items"? But I saw a staff member preparing one of the "Sweetheart Ham Sandwiches" too and it looked ridiculously good! (I am a ham sandwich aficionado) So, torn between the two, I decided to wave the white flag and get both, along with a small plate of pickled vegetables. I rolled a late lunch and early dinner into one meal. When in Rome...

(side note: Double Mountain Brewery is quickly becoming one of my favorite breweries on earth. last weekend I sampled one of their cask-conditioned India Red Ales (IRA) at Horse Brass and believed it to be one of the best beers I've ever had. With my ham sandwich I ordered Double Mountain's golden German-style Kolsch and, yet again, felt it was one of the best beers I've ever had. I'm dying to make a trip out to their brewery in the beautiful Columbia River Gorge town of Hood River.)

Enough of that, let the photos of Olympic Provisions food speak for themselves... (cue the choral music...)

Happy Hour Charcuterie Plate - 3 items, chef's choice, $5
Pickled Vegetables: cauliflower, pickles, onions, carrots, and celery

Hour Hour Sweetheart Ham Sandwich & a Double Mountain Kolsch German-style Ale

Final Thoughts:


I have something to say here:

For annoying reasons, McMenamins gets a bad wrap in the world of pretentious, hypocritical, anti-establishment Portland hipsters (and no, hipsters, by no means do all of you fit into this category). True, in Portland's brewing community McMenamins is larger than life in that it owns and operates over 60 locations, most of which are right here in the city. So, in the hipster mindset, McMenamins has become "corporate." If you so much as mention McMenamins to a hipster here chances are they will bash it in some way, shape, or form. It's too "big-business" for them. To use an all too common and all too frustrating hipster-colloquialism (satirized by the television show Portlandia, which, of course, most hipsters hate as well) : they view McMenamins as "over."

But please do not listen to their rants. McMenamins is, first and foremost, a local, Portland institution. It is not even close to being an Anheuser-Busch or Miller, it is a significantly smaller "micro-brewer" (among many other things) that started here in Portland and is greatly contributing to Portland's economy, its history, and its reputation for being a killer place to live and have fun. It saddens me that the very people who claim to support local businesses criticize McMenamins for being too corporate. Yeah, it's a lot more corporate than Migration Brewing or Alameda Brewing but it is still, no matter which way you look at it, local! 

I for one would greatly prefer to NOT have to picture a Portland without Greater Trumps, Edgefield, Bagdad Theater, Kennedy School, Imbrie Hall, Ringler's Annex, White Eagle Saloon, and Ram's Head, just to name a few. I believe that McMenamins should be put on a pedestal for what they have done for Portland, not criticized and bashed by the very same people who claim they support local businesses yet get all anti-establishment as soon as those businesses grow to a size larger than one mere dive bar on Alberta. If you took McMenamins out of Portland, you truly take something great out of Portland's charm and character, regardless of what any schmuck twenty-something hipster (most of which aren't even from here) says about it.

Olympic Provisions:

Olympic Provisions has a great and growing reputation around Portland, so I do not have to go to bat for them. But if I could, I most certainly would. This place is AWE-some. It has a very authentic character and persona and is producing some of the best meat you can get in Portland today. You can taste the meticulous attention to detail and strive for perfection in their products. The people behind O.P. clearly love what they do and it shows in their food. In the future, every carnivorous guest that visits me in Portland will be ushered here within hours of their arrival.

Additional Info:

2126 SW Halsey Street
Troutdale, Oregon

Olympic Provisions
107 SE Washington Street
Portland, Oregon

1 comment:

  1. This post made me ridiculously happy. Hours of a smoke and drinks and probably a ridiculous smile. McMenamins(es) are a bright star in the world.